I’ve been watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk TV show, which I find rather delightful.
I had certain issues with Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Tyson’s lushly produced sequel to Carl Sagan’s PBS series, for reflecting obvious tropes in line with pseudo-liberal political correctness rather than actual history. As an example, the Catholic Church is repeatedly demonized for its historical anti-science perspective, with hardly a mention of the fact that it was the Catholic Church that permitted and financed scientists doing their thing in the first place. At the same time, Tyson speaks with annoyingly hushed reverence about the Islamic Golden Age, and the Muslim love of science and education and freely exchanged ideas, while focusing on the legacy of Alhazen. Indeed a great scientist of his time, Alhazen literally had to spend a decade pretending to be mentally ill in order to avoid the wrath of a caliph who wanted him to construct a physics-defying Nile dam—because the Islamic Empire, during its golden age, so loved science and the free exchange of ideas. And speaking of mental illness, Cosmos also hails Giordano Bruno and laments his persecution, while downplaying his broken-clock correctness: Bruno only believed the sun was at the center of the universe because he worshipped a sun god. The fact that he was right is irrelevant when you examine the reason behind his “theory”; the fact that the Catholic Church persecuted him is irrelevant when you realize it was for the same reason: he belonged to a cult worshipping Egyptian gods instead of the Christian God. Nothing to do with science-hating popes.
When Tyson talked science, it was compelling; when he talked history, it was suspect…and frankly, that cast a negative light on all the cool science talk. For all the great analogies and visual depictions of physics in action, that becomes a big problem. As I’ve always complained: when a nonfiction work gets something I know a fair amount about completely wrong, it calls into question the educational value of all the things I don’t know about. I’ve already discussed how it is very much possible to skew “science” to fit a political agenda. Did this happen here?
I’m willing to give Tyson the benefit of the doubt, and assume he’s not making up science as he goes along, because I understand a far-left political perspective can skew his perception of history much more easily than the cold, hard facts of the universe he claims to be seeking. I also understand that, when you have 10 minutes of animated segments to communicate complicated sociopolitical events of the past, you have to take shortcuts, and you typically end up telling a story that “feels” true rather than is true—because, as you see it, distorting this one story makes it representative of scores of others. I’m not a fan of that approach, but I get it.
So, despite these issues, I like Tyson. I like StarTalk, too. It has kind of a bizarre structure for a talk show, but one I like. While there’s an element of Crossfire, it lacks the expected nonsensical shouting match; Tyson invites two guests, one quasi-celebrity and one expert with a differing opinion, but he interviews the celebrity separately, in his office, prior to the show taping. It’s presumably a practical consideration (to land good celebrities, he just invites them for an impromptu interview when they happen to be passing through New York, instead of confining them to a rigid taping schedule) that makes StarTalk innovative and interesting. Tyson has a long chat with the guest, which is edited into small chunks; then, he leads the interview with his in-studio expert to both set up clips from the separate celebrity interview, and then discuss where the expert agrees or disagrees. On top of that, Tyson invites a comedian cohost who serves the purpose of making the show entertaining and asking the “common-man questions” the audience would ask, and these questions allow Tyson to bridge the gap—in his self-anointed role of “science communicator”—between complex scientific ideas and the audience’s ability to understand them.
Those looking for a real debate show might find this structure disappointing, because it doesn’t allow the celebrity guest to respond to criticism or differences of opinion from the expert. As the moderator, though, Tyson tends to fill the additional role of guest advocate, sometimes arguing about topics based on the perspective of the celebrity. In any case, I’m not interested in a traditional debate show; what I find appealing about StarTalk is that each episode has a specific topic with appropriate guests—for instance, Christopher Nolan and theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin talking about astrophysics and Interstellar—and they just hash it out.
The latest episode featured “celebrity” guest Richard Dawkins, whom Tyson repeatedly refers to as “the patron saint of atheism,” and Jesuit priest James Martin. Some of you may have seen Martin on The Colbert Report, but based on those appearances—in which he admittedly comes off as intelligent, thoughtful, and progressive—I never would have guessed that he would have smoked both Dawkins and Tyson (who rejects the “atheist” label but clearly does not believe in God or religion) in questions about religion and science.
Full disclosure: although I am a cranky atheist, I’ve read more Richard Dawkins tweets than anything else of his work. I’m familiar with it in a very general sense, and I’ve picked up a lot of his arguments through osmosis. I haven’t read his books, or essays that have been published online, because I don’t really care. I have reasons for thinking there is no God and disdaining religion; I don’t need Dawkins to convince me. I prefer books about religion, because my desire is to understand their perspective. The vast majority of the world is religious, on some level. I’m never going to agree with it, but I need to understand it in order to know what I’m up against, and how to fight it when necessary. I don’t need Dawkins to tell me how to fight it; I don’t need to parrot his insights as if I, too, am an evolutionary biologist. Even if I needed to lift someone else’s arguments, it wouldn’t be Dawkins; I’m not one of those atheists who thinks embracing science will lead to mass rejection of religion and Utopia on Earth. It’s not that simple.
And speaking of simple, here was a rather rude introduction to Dawkins’s style of straw man:
Imagine that you were going to consult a doctor, and I make him an eye doctor. You happen to know that he privately doesn’t believe in the sex theory of reproduction. He believes that babies come from storks… I’m guessing you would not go to that doctor, but I’ve met plenty of people, especially in America, who say it’s none of your business what he believes below the waist. He’s an eye doctor. Is he a competent? Can he repair your cataracts? And I don’t think he should be employed in a hospital, because what you’re saying about that man is that he’s got the kind of mind which is so adrift from reality that even if he’s a competent eye surgeon, I don’t think he could be trusted.
This is a metaphor, and quite a bad one, for the religious mentality. Belief in storks is the same as belief in God/religion, and the ophthalmologist’s knowledge of his or her particular specialty represents the idea that people have what Dawkins seems to think is an incompatible duality: they can believe in science and a rational, observable world—and yet, they also believe in religion. And if they say they do both, they should not be trusted. They’re “adrift from reality.”
Using an actual, real-world example of this mindset: several years ago, I saw a gastroenterologist once a month for about a year (to identify a physical problem that turned out to be panic attacks—whoops!). Every time I saw him, he was wearing a yarmulke. For me, any kind of religious affectation in a professional setting weirds me out. It made me very uncomfortable the first time I saw him, but it wasn’t so much about him announcing, through headwear, that he was “adrift from reality”; I always see such affectations as a sort of demented form of attention-seeking. I can’t imagine that this doctor consciously wanted me to ask, “So, are you Jewish or something?” But for whatever reason(s), the way he was taught or chose to practice his religion leaves him looking for attention or recognition.
Based on Dawkins’s premise above, I shouldn’t have trusted that doctor. I should have found another specialist, and at my first appointment, I should have said, “I noticed you’re not wearing a yarmulke—but are you religious? ‘Cause if so, I need to find somebody else.” This, I fear, would severely limit the number of doctors I could see. According to a 2005 survey conducted by the University of Chicago, 76% of U.S. doctors believe in God, and 55% “say their religious beliefs influence how they practice medicine.”
For an atheist, that’s a troubling statistic, but it should be completely unsurprising given the overall religious makeup of this country. Would Dawkins suggest we all crowd the waiting rooms of the 24% who don’t believe in God, or simply stop seeking any medical treatment? It’s absurd to assume that any person with any sort of religious belief, in any area of society, should be eyed with suspicion if they claim religious beliefs in a field seemingly incompatible religion. “Seemingly” is the keyword there, because as the U of C study found:
Although doctors are more likely than the general population to attend religious services, they are less willing to “apply their religious beliefs to other areas of life,” the researchers found. Sixty-one percent of doctors say they “try to make sense” of a difficult situation and “decide what to do without relying on God,” while only 29 percent of the general population say the same.
At the risk of sounding too much like my arch-nemesis Reza Aslan, analogies like Dawkins’s do not give enough credit for the diversity of religious beliefs. Awhile back, I was dating someone in a pre-med post-baccalaureate program. She was one of the few in the program who was older and looking for a “second career”—most of the students, by her description, had merely “fucked up undergrad” and needed to do this program or risk getting cut off by their parents—and she’d made friends of the few others who were her age and doing the same thing. One was an ex-nun who still strongly believed in the tenets of Catholicism, even though they were incompatible with her sexual orientation; another was a former military rape counselor who insisted that the more she studied the in-depth intricacies of science, the more she saw/understood God.
My ex and I, both atheists, found their perspectives puzzling. “Doctrine, not dogma” was the nun’s mantra; the other distinguished the value of a particular faith based on how much education was required to join the clergy (e.g., Methodism, which requires its priests rigorously study religion for a minimum of five years, is far above tent revivals that “anybody could do”). And all this came up on a night out—ironically for my own birthday, when none of my friends could make it, and I was meeting these two for the first time—and the more they drank, the mouthier they got about religion. Aside from my ex saying a couple of times, “I don’t believe in magic,” neither of us participated much in the conversation. Because although we both totally disagreed with their perspectives, if a connection to God motivates a desire to study and truly understand the natural world—and use that understanding to save lives—what’s wrong with that? Why would anyone argue that they can’t truly understand science until they reject religion? It’s true of some people—a very small but very loud minority—but not of most.
In response to this, Father Martin—who correctly calls Dawkins’s analogy a “false supposition”—brings up an example of quantum physics, one particle allegedly existing in two places at once, and makes the fairly cogent point that physicists take such mysteries on faith. They might be able to fill pages with explanations for why they think it’s true, and they might be 99.9% of the way there, but the fact is, the 0.1% gap in knowledge…is faith. It’s reasonable faith, and I’d argue much more reasonable than even the most modern and enlightened version of religious faith—which, for its many pages of “proof” of God’s works, requires a 99.9% leap of faith for the 0.1% of “knowledge” it provides—but it still requires a leap of faith. Martin bridges the gap by calling it, “A mystery you believe in.”
Throughout the episode, Father Martin eloquently points out the very small difference of opinion dividing Jesuits (and other modern, educated, progressive religious folks—which, let me repeat, is most of them) and a Dawkins-style atheist scientist: they both see the same mysteries, they both want the same answers, they both approach it in the same way…but at the end, an atheist scientist says, “Wow, the universe is cool!” and a religious scientist says, “Wow, God is cool!” Consider this exchange between Dawkins and Tyson:
Dawkins: Keats thought that Newton was destroying the poetry of the rainbow by explaining the spectrum.
Tyson: Or completely destroying the mystery of it.
Dawkins: And the message of [Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion, and the Appetite for Wonder] is that by destroying the mystery, you increase the poetry. You don’t decrease it.
Tyson: And I try to go there in all of my work. Whether or not I succeed, that’s my intent. I think there’s no more reproduced image when people want you to think of God than a sunset with beams of light coming out, but I also know that the surface of the sun is 6000 degrees, and there’s Rayleigh scattering in the atmosphere, you have water droplets condensing to make clouds…
Which, to separate the atheist scientist from the religious layman (not the religious scientist, and not the religious extremist), is strictly a difference of opinion. A religious layman, looking at a sunset, might reflect on the majesty of God. A religious layman might consciously know there are elements of science he or she doesn’t understand at play, but those scientific elements, to the layman, simply fall under the bracket of “God’s ordered universe.” They don’t know what Tyson does, and what’s more, they don’t care. It doesn’t matter; they can be good people and live good lives without knowing the physics behind a sunset, and without even having the curiosity to find out.
When I look at a sunset, I don’t contemplate God; I also don’t contemplate science. I say, “Wow, sometimes the world is a beautiful place.” I try to snap a photo, because I want to share that beauty with others. It often doesn’t come out well, because the principles of physics defeat my temperamental iPhone camera. Nevertheless, it’s nice, sometimes, to stop and smell the roses, and forget what a shit heap people have made of the planet. A religious layman feels a connection to God; an atheist scientist feels a connection to “the cosmos”; an atheist layman feels a connection to the world and the people worth sharing it with. Three different, yet wholly compatible, perspectives on the same image.
What Father Martin argues throughout the episode, rather successfully to my surprise, is for that compatibility. Certain religious people—and not just the evangelical right; plenty of Catholic priests, right under Father Martin’s nose, are guilty of this—favor ignorance and darkness. They see science as a competitor to faith, not a companion, so they do what they can to reject it and spread that message to others. This is what Dawkins wants to fight against, and Tyson is clearly on his side. I’m on his side, in a sense, but I question his regard among other atheists (granted, this is the only time I’ve seen him speak in more than 140 characters), because of the piss-poor arguments and analogies he presents. I’m going to recap them all, in order, with Martin’s perspective alongside. My commentary, when I have any, is bracketed and in italics.
Point 1: Do you think religion, in general, emerges from rational thought or from non-rational thought?
Dawkins’s Perspective: Considering the evolutionary origins of illogical behavior, Dawkins concedes that irrational fears (leading to illogical behavior) may be part of the survival instinct: “If you see a sort of rustling in the trees, it could be a leopard about to jump on you, but it’s much more likely to be the wind… [W]hen your survival depends upon the…rather lower probability that it might be a leopard, the more prudent thing is to be more risk-averse [than the statistics justify].”
Martin’s Perspective: “Reason and faith are not inconsistent. Logic and faith are not inconsistent.” He compares it to falling in love: even if you “know” it’s not logical, you sometimes rely solely on the “feeling” (illogical faith that your love is real), or sometimes merge logic (sound reasons why falling in love makes sense) and emotion (reasons this love seems to make no sense). [People don’t fall in love by adding up a rational list of reasons and intoning, “I am in love now”; they feel it, and if they’re smart, they go back and apply logic to the feeling. But a lot of people just roll with it.]
Point 2: “If the people have private beliefs but then they become a professional scientist… At some point, there’s a line in the sand there.”
Dawkins’s Perspective: This is where he invokes the terrible doctor/stork analogy mentioned above. In short, religion and scientific inquiry are incompatible. [To give an idea of why I think Dawkins’s analogy is so bad, consider a similar analogy written by Salon‘s Jeffrey Tayler—who, incidentally, I don’t like much, either—in his most recent column:
[Would you, say, entrust your health to a doctor who reassures you that he still follows instructions in the medical textbook he used while obtaining his M.D. three decades ago? Who avoids keeping abreast of developments in his specialty, and ignores the advice of his colleagues? Who insists on prescribing the treatments from centuries past?
[Tayler is addressing a more specific criticism of religion—that religious beliefs come from outdated doctrine—but he does so using an analogy that actually makes sense, and plausibly applies to the comparison.
[Here, in an attempt to clarify his point, Dawkins similarly makes an even faultier analogy to “the professor of geography who believes in the flat Earth, but [otherwise makes perfect globes].” At least with the ophthalmology comparison—well, it’s pretty stupid, but you could see where there could be a competent eye surgeon who has a crazy belief about the reproductive system, since there isn’t a ton of overlap between the two body systems. It’s far-fetched and a poor analogy, but maybe in some far-out way it’s possible. But a flat-Earth geographer who “makes perfect globes”—well, first of all, he couldn’t make a globe, but more to the point, he couldn’t even make an accurate map. There is no possible way he could be the best in his field. He would, by necessity, be really bad at his job. The only reason modern maps are as accurate as they are now, even though they appear “flat” or two-dimensional, is because the spherical Earth is recognized and accounted for in the current projections.]
Martin’s Perspective: “I know so many Catholic scientists…or Christian scientists, more broadly, and they find it a way of trying to understand the universe and a way of trying to understand God’s creation. And, once again, I don’t see it as inconsistent… No, I don’t think you need to draw a line like that… [T]he person starts with faith and says there are certain things that I can’t understand and that science can help us understand that.” When Tyson asks for examples of the merging of science and faith, that’s when Martin brings up his quantum physics argument and calls certain scientific phenomena “a mystery that you believe in.”
Point 3: Most people who are vocal and active and politically motivated [to pit science and faith against each other] do not separate God from religion.
Dawkins’s Perspective: “I go a little bit further in the direction of good-natured ridicule of absurd ideas… If you call somebody an idiot, you’re not going to change his mind, but you may change the minds of a thousand people listening in.”
Martin’s Perspective: “Why should that keep you from God?” [What the fuck is this? Is Father Martin arguing for an individualist, egoist attitude toward religion? Not exactly, but he’s making a point that I think a lot of atheists miss, which is that a connection to God can trump specific affiliations with religious groups. I can’t tell you how many people I know who describe themselves as “spiritual,” especially liberals: they take it for granted that God exists, but they rejected any specific religious affiliation, because specific religious affiliations make believing in God seem really, really shitty. I don’t agree with this, but like Martin, I don’t see it as a contradiction in terms.]
Point 4: On past scientists and religiosity…
Dawkins’s Perspective: “I’m deeply unimpressed by that argument.” The argument being that scientists of the past were religious, and so therefore science and religion are totally compatible. Dawkins points to Darwin as the turning point, noting “it looks almost obvious there had to be a designer… Who can blame Newton and Galileo?” [Yet another fundamental misunderstanding of how people of faith understand the world, Dawkins’s belief that Darwin reversed the theory of a cosmic “designer” is absurd. Certainly, it’s different from what’s reported in the Genesis story or in the conception of God as a big dude with a long white beard magically making things, but Darwin’s theories are right in line with the deist belief that God is everywhere in the natural world. Evolution, they would argue, is not random selection; survival of the fittest occurs because every living creature is God’s science project.]
Martin’s Perspective: When Tyson tries to bait Martin by saying, “Some have argued that the problem is not being religious, but what people do with religion in society,” he’s pleasantly surprised when Martin agrees: “That’s self-evident because you see all sorts of religious fanaticism…and fundamentalism, and people who are kind of, you know, set in their ways. But…all these scientists that you described [i.e., Newton, Galileo] are people who saw God’s creation and wanted to explore it and understand it, which is a good impulse… [N]one of this…should be seen as in conflict.”
Point 5: On contemporary scientists and religiosity…
Dawkins’s Perspective: “Einstein unfortunately muddied the issue by using the word ‘god’ rather freely…and [religious] people, therefore, want to claim Einstein.” This is followed by trying to revise Einstein’s Godly aphorisms as metaphoric, which is how he perceives any scientist who claims religious faith without believing in the supernatural. “So subtract them off, and then you are left with a few who actually do believe in the virgin birth, and I don’t know what to make of them.”
Martin’s Perspective: “[T]he idea that…they don’t really believe all this stuff… I just want to say one thing: he did basically say that Einstein, when he used the word God, didn’t know what he was talking about. So, it is a strange thing to say that Einstein…was kind of deluded or didn’t understand what God was.” Tyson interrupts to agree with Dawkins: “But if you read all of Einstein’s references to God, it’s very clear that God was metaphor for the laws of the universe, not in the way anybody else who’s religious is invoking God.” To which Martin replies, correctly, “I think that’s assuming a lot. I mean, I think we can understand God in different ways… I think most religious scientists would say… ‘This is helping me understand God’s beautiful world.'”
Point 6: On discrimination against atheists… [a total bullshit argument]
Dawkins’s Perspective: “I think you’re exaggerating the desire of the secular movement to convert everybody to our point of view. We’re not like missionaries knocking on the door… [W]e want to convert you, not to atheism, but to the view that atheist should not be discriminated against… It’s a purer message, and it’s a very important one in the United States, where atheists can’t get elected to Congress… [Y]ou have to say… ‘I no longer will discriminate against somebody because of his lack of religion when I vote.'” He follows this by claiming that young people these days have trouble “coming out” as atheists, just like gay people do.
Martin’s Perspective: Duh, of course atheists shouldn’t be discriminated against. But, he adds, “[H]e does have a mission… [T]he thing that…compels him and sends him out, is to convince people…not only that atheism is correct, but also that religious people are basically idiots… [W]hen we’re talking about discrimination, we have to be careful. There are places where people who are religious…are seen as basically insane or idiots.” [This leads to Tyson invoking the galling pseudo-liberal tract that minorities cannot discriminate—only those in power can discriminate. BULL. SHIT. But Martin agrees with him and backs off.] His ultimate point, though, is that fomenting Us vs. Them-style divisions doesn’t help anything.
Point 7: Can you test for a designer of the universe?
Dawkins’s Perspective: No. (He waxes philosophical about how proving this would completely transform the way we view all aspects of science, so the “no” is implied.)
Martin’s Perspective: “I don’t know.”
I remain a firm believer that religions, especially the wildly popular Abrahamic faiths, pose great dangers to society. On this topic, I actually go much further than most of the atheist commentators who pop up on my various feeds: I believe there’s nothing good about the moral/ethical framework of religions, whereas many of the lefty atheist commentators I read firmly believe in the ethics of altruism preached by the most popular religions. It’s not that I think Father Martin is totally right and Professor Dawkins is totally wrong; I just think, surprising at it is, Martin came off as the more reasonable and open-minded of the two.
I never thought I would witness an argument between two atheists (possibly three, if Eugene Mirman is one) and a priest, and ultimately be on the priest’s side. I absolutely disagree with his presupposed facts: that God is out there, that He is reflected in science, that He tries to connect with people on “their” level, and so on. What I agree with, much moreso than what Dawkins and Tyson had to say, is with his very rational thoughts about the complicated ways different people—of differing levels of intelligence—relate to God and religion.
The problem with Dawkins is in his supposition that all religious people fit a certain type, and that type is “irrational, delusional mystic.” I think the closer ties a person has with a particular belief system, and the harder they try to pretzel-logic their way into justifying its most deplorable teachings for a modern audience, the greater the case for their delusion. But there are religious people out there, many of them in so-called “rational, secular” disciplines, who don’t accept the literalist interpretations of their scriptures, who may not even accept many of their specific faiths tenets, who should not be discriminated against with the “delusional” label for a simple difference of opinion.
Personally, I think it’s absurd for a person to accept God, accept certain tenets of a belief system, and then ignore all the rest. As I’ve said before: why identify with that group, if you believe in so little of it? In fact, it’s staggering to me that someone as reasonable as Father Martin can be so closely aligned with Catholicism, which in many ways does not support the liberal/progressive views he espouses on StarTalk. And, even worse, has historically condoned and covered up horrific acts of sexual abuse by clergy—a very real fact that any reasonable, modern, progressive, intelligent person should seriously grapple with before acting as a quasi-spokesman for a quasi-reformed version of the Church.
This glaring oversight of Martin’s can overshadow many of the good things he said. In fact, his ability to speak very reasonably about everything, while affirming the Catholic Church, without ever mentioning the horrors perpetrated by that specific organization (past and present), in a sense speaks to Dawkins’s awful “doctor/stork” analogy. Martin might sound like the best priest anyone’s ever heard, but Jesuits are still an order of the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church is still awful (even with its shiny, new pope); to leave that unacknowledged, and to continue to boost for the Church like these facts mean nothing to the outside world, makes him untrustworthy.
My issue with Dawkins, though, is his assumption that this makes Martin untrustworthy across the board. If Martin is wrong about one thing, he must therefore be wrong about all things. I was surprised by how reasonable his commentary was, but I still view what he says with healthy skepticism. My disappointment, though, is that I also view Dawkins—someone whose side I should be on—with skepticism. He simply did a bad job.
I know that religion has been and remains the most toxic form of sociopolitical torture we humans have ever created. I don’t mind people who sarcastically, or even condescendingly, insult certain beliefs (or even belief systems), because many are worthy of mockery and disdain. There are millions of bad ideas within religion, people who practice their religion negatively, and other areas that can be specifically focused on for criticism… But to lump all believers in with all bad ideas and all bad practitioners isn’t going to win any hearts and minds. When the majority of religious people are as disgusted by Fred Phelps types and ISIS “leaders” as we atheists are, lumping the good in with the bad is just going to make them assume (correctly) that you don’t understand anything about religion or religious people.
I have a problem with particular religious people and groups when they believe their religion entitles them to enslave others, literally or metaphorically. I have a problem with religion in general because its rhetoric allows people these “interpretations” (note: those are sarcastic air quotes; they’re just reading ancient texts as written). This is the most significant force stripping away individual freedom, in one fell swoop in some cases; in others, it just gets removed piece by piece. Every “liberal victory” is hollowly countered by either a conservative victory or a pseudo-liberal victory, the enablers of religious oppression. (Even many pure “liberal victories” are enabled by religious oppression; those who think ideas of altruism and income redistribution were invented by religion-rejecting Marx, and therefore think this form of slavery is more positive for its lack of religion, should read both the New Testament and the dictionary definition of “liberty.”)
Frankly, I also have a problem with modern, enlightened people of faith—but not because they’re bad people, or untrustworthy, or somehow entirely irrational. I don’t even have a problem with the fact that they believe in God; my problem, or more accurately my confusion, is that they believe in religion. When they have to dismiss so much of what’s actually written, and dismiss so much toxic history stemming from alignment with a specific religion, I just don’t understand otherwise intelligent people going beyond, “I’m spiritual.”
They should know better, but their faith doesn’t automatically make them bad people. To think otherwise is a major oversimplification.